Eurocentrism, Islam, and the intellectual politics of civilizational framing
AbstractEurocentrism denotes a non-homogenous set of ideas and practices that pervade the material and discursive worlds we inhabit. Rather than countervailing Eurocentric knowledges, we can treat them as contingent representations with specific premises and intelligible conditions of possibility and change. Analyzing Eurocentrism is synonymous with critical engagement with the disciplines and topical arenas that define our work. To exemplify this viewpoint, this paper evaluates epistemological framings deployed in the work of Gottlieb W. Leitner (d. 1899) and Jurji Zaidan (d. 1914), authors who published synthetic accounts of ‘Islamic history’ for wide consumption.
Leitner collaborated with Indian scholars and wrote in Urdu on this topic while Zaidan was a major figure in the modern Arabic literary awakening known as the nahda. Their works champion Muslims and Arabs on the basis of thoroughly Eurocentric ideas regarding universal ‘civilization’. They are invested in proper understanding of ‘history’ as the guarantor of accurate interpretation in modern scholarship that utilizes premodern sources. Appreciating the work of Leitner and Zaidan as knowledge production that entangles Europe and non-Europe—and value-laden projections regarding modernity and premodernity—helps to treat Eurocentrism in current and future scholarship in the humanities and the social sciences.